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A letter from Bob and Kristi Rice serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
May 2015 - Launching Savings Groups
Mamu Ntumba sells plastic bags, tiny portions of salt, and other small items near Kananga’s central market. Her stall is a small simple table with a stick that props up a plastic bag, and her small items are spread out on the table. The total value of her stock on the table is less than $20. Yet she is exuberant as she describes how her income from this stall helps to support her and her children. After her husband died, Mamu Ntumba struggled desperately to feed and support her children. In her Presbytery of Tshibashi, they started a microfinance program with help from their sister presbytery in the U.S. Mamu Ntumba attended the training, along with about 30 women received a small loan of about $30, and was able to establish her stall at the market. She faithfully repaid the loan in small weekly installments. Unfortunately this story is not all roses—a loan program like this, however small, requires skilled oversight, strict accountability, and significant investment to be able to continue. Lacking in some of these areas, the program in Tshibashi lost steam and is currently on hold.Continue reading
A letter from Nancy Dimmock serving in the U.S.
April 29, 2015 - Inspiring Stories
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land (Song of Solomon 2:11-12).
So it is in our new place and in our family. It feels like we have come through a hard physical winter and a winter of the soul. We are still adjusting and very much “in process,” but we are now able to lift our eyes, to notice much beauty around us. Granted, it is not the familiar tropical beauty of flamboyant trees and bougainvillea, but the beauty of dogwoods and azaleas. It is springtime in Louisville, Kentucky.
I have been reflecting on what a privilege it has been to serve a 30-year assignment to “ends of the earth” and to experience God’s incredible faithfulness through it all. Remembering this, we can look to our future as continuing in God’s service with much hope.Continue reading
A letter from Marta Bennett serving in Kenya
April 2015 - Hope Out of Horror
It is April, and the long rains have come in Kenya. Last night our road was literally a white-water road-wide torrent—not deep enough to raft, but rapid enough to overflow the drain ditches and to have ripples and waves rushing down the slope past our gate.
It is April in East Africa, and the long rains have once again set in. In the past, the pounding night rains have lulled me to sleep, safe, snug under my quilt, though vaguely aware of so many who lie down to sleep surrounded by mud walls, worrying about mudslides. At the same time, rain in any form here is called a blessing, where livelihood and the prediction of well-being for the following season is dependent on God’s provision of blessed rain. But now, at this time in April, each evening as it begins to pour in Nairobi, one wonders, is it blessing this year, or a weeping for “Rachel’s children,” for those murdered by terrorism and violence? First at Garissa University, mostly the Christian students singled out, then African foreigners in South Africa, now Ethiopian believers in Libya. I think of Sometimes in April, a powerful film set in the context the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Early in the movie the main character reminisces as he stares out at the heavy rain, “Yes it’s April again. Every year, every day the haunting memories. Every year in April, I remember how quickly life passes, and every year I remember how lucky I should feel to be alive. Every year in April, I remember.” Here we are in April once again, with more collected tragedies to be remembered.Continue reading
A letter from Dan Turk serving in Madagascar
April 22, 2015 - Death of a Legend
I had last ridden a motorcycle in 1995 and thought that my motorcycle days were over. That changed on Saturday, February 28, 2015, when Daniel Rakotoarinala said, “There’s some sad news: Dadamonjy has also died.”
Dadamonjy was a living legend who lived at Ambohimitombo in the heart of Zafimaniry country at the western edge of Madagascar’s rainforest. Ambohimitombo is 50 km SE of Ambositra at the end of a road often best described as a muddy mess. The Zafimaniry people are famous for their woodcarving and received recognition from UNESCO in 2003 for their woodcarving heritage. Dadamonjy was probably the foremost cultural ambassador of the Zafimaniry people, at the forefront of efforts to keep Zafimaniry knowledge and traditions alive. In 2009 he proudly went to Algeria to represent Madagascar at a cultural festival.
At the time of his death Dadamonjy was also president of the local forest protection organization, coach of the youth soccer team, and advisor to the mayor. He and his wife had held many leadership positions over the years at the FJKM church at Ambohimitombo. The FJKM, which is the Malagasy acronym for the Church of Jesus in Madagascar, is PC(USA)’s partner church in Madagascar. Many FJKM churches, like the one at Ambohimitombo, do not have pastors, so lay leaders play very important roles in the life of the congregations.Continue reading
A letter from Choon Lim serving as Regional Liaison for East Asia, based in South Korea
April 2015 - Two Anniversaries
The 130th Anniversary of the Korea Mission was celebrated in April 2015. Horace G. Underwood, a Presbyterian mission worker, brought the Good News to Korea on April 5, 1885, on Easter. The Good News came through Incheon, and his prayer was heard in words something like these: “I arrived here on Easter morning. On this morning the Easter Lord who was raised from the death of the prison iron bars, which were destroyed, will destroy the Korean people’s bondage of iron chains so that they can gain freedom as God’s children.”
August 15, 1945, Korea gained freedom from Japan’s bondage of 36 years. This year Korean people celebrate the 70th anniversary of Liberation (Independence) Day of Korea. Seventy years ago Korea received special grace from God through the UN’s (especially the U.S.A.’s) help. So Korean people can never forget the U.S.’s mission work for the Korean peninsula and the freedom given to them. But there is still undone work: the reunification of the divided Korean peninsula.Continue reading
A letter from Kay Day serving in Rwanda
May 2015 - Pulling Together
Dear Family and Friends,
At the moment the sun is shining and the sky is clear, but this is the rainy season and the beauty will not last long. We enjoy the sun when it comes. This is also the time of remembrance of the genocide in Rwanda, now 21 years ago. Commemorations happen throughout this period, rain or shine. Two weeks ago was the remembrance at Kirinda, the second mission station of the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda. The remembrance begins by the river, where many people were chased and murdered and then their bodies thrown in the river. The bodies have never been recovered. The rains began early in the morning of the commemoration, just as it had on the day the killings began. We stood in the downpour and remembered. Then we got in our cars and began the procession up the hill to the mission station, about five kilometers.
The steep dirt road, with twists and turns, had turned to slick mud, making it at times like driving on ice. About a kilometer from the mission station the rain let up, but the road became treacherous. The procession stopped as several cars slid and blocked the road. Many decided to get out and climb the hillside beside the road, leaving the cars to the drivers. So up we went, at a 45 degree angle, for about 100 yards, until the path joined the main road, over rock and mud. My colleague Pastor Esther was on my left and my student Elisee was on my right. We followed the path of those in front of us, picking our way over the rocks. When it became very slick Esther took one of my arms and Elisee the other to assist me through the mud. At one point as all three of us slid backwards, I felt a firm hand on my lower back, pushing me forward as I dragged my “crutches” up with me. When we made it to the top, we stood and laughed about how many Rwandans it took to get one mzungu (white person) up a muddy slope.Continue reading
A letter from Ryan and Alethia White serving in Germany
March 2015 - Spring and New Life
Salaam, Grüße, Greetings from Berlin where spring is breathing small whispers of its promised coming. Having lived now through our first full set of seasons since before our eight years in Southern California, we can report that winter has been harder on us than we anticipated. Although we’ve now been in Berlin for over a year, the darkness and cold of the city in winter along with at least six straight weeks of illness in our family disrupting our daily routines have taken quite the physical, mental, and at times spiritual toll.
We are excited that we have made it through our first year of adjustment here and feel thankful to live in a neighborhood we enjoy and to have formed the very beginnings of a community here, both within the church and elsewhere. But we have also struggled more with our sense of place in regard to our work and how best we can take part. It has been hard to know what to say by way of description of our work in the past few months, but we have been able to participate more during the weekly social work sessions, which have been both good practice in listening to people’s stories in Farsi and also eye-opening as to their situation since leaving Iran and arriving in Berlin. The immigrant issue is a hot topic these days in Germany, with Berlin expecting an estimated 15,000 new refugees (not just from Iran) this coming year. This represents quite a rise in numbers from the previous years, so politicians and social and religious organizations are all trying to decide how to manage this trend. We have also had the opportunity to hear from many Afghan refugees in recent months, who have their own set of extremely challenging circumstances.Continue reading
A letter from Barbara Nagy serving in Malawi
March 2015 - Using Community Strengths
One moving situation on the pediatrics ward occurs when all the patients’ families file out and walk to the hospital gates beside the family of a child who has died. We had a similar but happy gathering last week when Sabina, a little 9-month-old girl went home. She suffered a nearly fatal pneumonia as a young infant, which severely damaged her lungs. Sabina couldn’t survive off oxygen, her home had no electricity, and we wouldn’t have had an oxygen concentrator to send home with her, so she remained in the hospital for nine long months, watching many others get well. Her mom is an example of servant love, as she never left her side and remained cheerful throughout her long ordeal, often helping the other patients—and then there was a parade of victory as she departed. It is hard to now enter the pediatrics ward without seeing Sabina’s smiling face, but she and her mom are doing well at home where they belong, and we expect Sabina will grow into a fine young lady in the years to come.
We also were able to experience one of the great challenges of pediatric care today as we met a woman who is the mother of 12, of whom 6 have died. Her 3-week-old baby was delivered in a field after a pregnancy during which the mother received no prenatal care because she belongs to a religion that does not accept medical interventions. None of her children have ever had a vaccination, used a mosquito net, or benefited from any nutritional guidance.Continue reading
A letter from César Carhuachín serving in Colombia
April 2015 - Peace With Justice
Dear sisters and brothers, supporters of God’s mission in Colombia:
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior. I hope the God of life is blessing your lives and ministries. You all are making the difference in the ministry of the Reformed University of Colombia through your prayers and financial support of God’s mission in Colombia over the past months. For your faithful commitment I give thanks to God.
This year our church partner, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, is facing a big challenge: to continue sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in a context of violence. At this particular time the conversations for peace between government and FARC (Forces Allied Revolutionaries of Colombia) are being deepened and are more hopeful because a Peace Agreement might be achieved this year. Our church partner, along with other churches and organizations, is praying and supporting these peace conversations, but supporting peace with justice, which in this context means peace with land restitution. This is a big challenge because the violence generated by guerrillas, paramilitary forces, drug dealers and big international companies has produced close to 6 million displaced families. Of course many people who have taken over individuals’ land don’t want land restitution because they were and they are enriched using those lands.Continue reading
A letter from Josh Heikkila serving as Regional Liaison for West Africa, based in Ghana
March 2015 - Saved By a Banner?
In the fall of 2012, while visiting the U.S., I collected quite a few gently used church banners from congregations in the Twin Cities Presbytery, which over the course of 2013 I distributed as gifts to congregations of our church partners in West Africa. The banners ended up in Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, and Niger, I think in more than three dozen different congregations in all. They proved to be a big hit.
As Regional Liaison for West Africa I help our denomination build and sustain church partnerships in the region. I really like the banners because they are a small but significant way of expressing that partnership. They serve as a visible reminder to our partners that we have brothers and sisters around the world who are thinking about us, praying for us, and looking for ways to help us, and who also learn from us as we live out our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ.Continue reading
A letter from Tim and Gloria Wheeler serving in Honduras
March 2015 - The Passion of Christ, Easter
Her smile belied all of the pain that she held in as she explained her hope for the future and of a better life for her family. She was participating in the new housing project in Las Lagunas, Copan, which many PC(USA) mission teams have been accompanying. Her family was one of 27 families who had come together to qualify for the new project in which they would all get a housing lot if they were willing to work on building their own homes.
Suddenly her smile was lost as her face conveyed some of the pain and difficulties that she had suffered over many years. Doña Cruz told us that she had lived on roadside right-of-ways, under bridges, vacant smidges of land, and a number of places with her family. Time and again she would receive a notification from the city government that she could not inhabit the place that she called home with her 11 children and husband. She would have to pack her array of pots and pans, mattresses, and clothes and set out to another location. Her family would put up another little dwelling made of sticks, poles, plastic and mud that they would call home. The pain that she felt for her children is hard to fathom—how can we? What we can fathom is the huge change taking place for Doña Cruz and her family as expressed in the changes in her face.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.